It seems that our pursuit of Luiz Gustavo is heating up to a point that allows us to consider what all the fuss is about. The Brazilian, who wasn’t a first choice for Bayern’s treble-winning season, shouldn’t be blamed for wanting more playing time. Bayern’s midfield was already crowded before the arrivals of Götze and Alcántara, and Gustavo certainly would appreciate more playing time in the run-up to his country hosting the World Cup next summer.
He’s a skilled, experienced player, and he might make for a nice addition to the squad. From our end, the move would make a good deal of sense: cover and competition for Ramsey and Arteta, a back-up of sorts at left or centre back (where he’s also played), and a player with Champions League and championship experience.
From his end, though, I have to admit, the move seems to make less sense. If he seeks more time on the pitch, he’d have to consider that our midfield is already fairly crowded—Ramsey and Arteta have formed an effective double-pivot, and Wilshere is looking to reclaim his role after overcoming the ankle injuries that have deterred him over the last few years.
In other words, if his primary motivation is more playing time, his interests might be better served by moving to Wolfsburg. The advantages of playing for Arsenal are obvious: greater prestige, European competition, league contention, better salary (maybe). Should Gustavo come to Ashburton Grove, however, he’d have to fight for time. If he’s up for the fight, so much the better as he’d add much-needed depth and versatility.
Our offer for the man is said to be somewhere in the £14-to-18m range, and if we can get a player who can help us to address as many as three areas (defensive midfield, center-back, and left-back), albeit to varying degrees, it would be hard to find fault with the deal from our end.
In fact, even as I scan through possible flaws, the best I can come up is “we could still use cover for right-back” and “maybe his value or quality is inflated by playing for Bayern”. Each of these is such a stretch that they’re not worth considering. He’s tough on the ball, fearless going in for and winning tackles, great with passing and crossing, quick, and intelligent.
This might not be the kind of squad-changing signing we’ve craved; it’s unlikely that Luiz Gustavo alone would vault us to the top of the Premier League, but he could certainly strengthen us in the aforementioned ways. If we can get a player of his skill and experience at the prices being bandied about, we’d be fools to let him slip through our fingers on the vague notion that playing for Wolfsburg, who finished 11th in the Bundesliga last season, would give him a better platform for convincing Scolari of his quality.
With Arsenal, he could play with greater confidence than at Wolfsburg. He’d know that he’s surrounded by quality players who know how and when to make themselves available for a pass or to provide defensive support. By contrast, and without disparaging Wolfsburg, he might find himself frustrated at being dispossessed because it was that much harder to find an open teammate or at getting beaten on a give-and-go because no one was covering the “go” passer.
At Wolfsburg, in other words, he might become the best player on the squad, but in a way that would leave him isolated and irritated. Look at it this way: if he signs with Wolfsburg at £16m, he’d instantly be their most expensive player and would command close to 20% of Wolfburg’s total market value.
There’s pressure there, no doubt, and pressure that would be hard to live up to without the kind of quality around him that he’s grown accustomed to.
On the other hand, if he comes to Arsenal at that same £16m, he’d slot right in financially in the middle of the pack while having far-more support around him, providing him a better platform for his skills.
Therefore, I hope Arsène and the board make this one happen before the week is out. We’ve waited long enough for good news on the transfer-front, and signing Gustavo would count in my book as that kind of news.